Functional training may seem like a fancy term, but it's all about utilising exercises that have the most amount of carry-over to daily life. Categorically speaking, there are six to keep in mind: push, pull, hinge, squat, lunge and carry. Despite it being a basic aspect of human movement, executing a proper hinge of the hips can be difficult for those who are typically sedentary.
There are a number of things that can get in the way of performing a hip hinge: unfamiliarity with the movement, weakened or tight muscles, poor proprioception, etc.. However, with practice comes proficiency. If you're new to the hip hinge, try your hand at these five exercises in sequence to build up your confidence.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
1. Quadruped sitback
The purpose of this exercise is to “convince” the body that it is indeed capable of hinging at the hips. For neophytes, a lack of balance brought about by low confidence is often a learning barrier. The quadruped sitback puts you in a very stable position so there's no worry about falling whatsoever. As you perform the movement, it is important that you learn to initiate it via the hips and not the shoulders. Think about pushing/sliding your hips backwards while your shoulders rotate naturally.
2. Tall-kneeling banded hip distraction
Using a resistance band as a form of manual distraction helps in learning the hip hinge as it provides the body something to react to. In this instance, the band assists the body by guiding the hips into a proper hinged position. In overcoming this resistance, the body also learns how to brace the midsection and contract the glutes within the context of a hip hinge.
3. Cable pullthrough
The cable pullthrough takes the previous exercise to its logical conclusion through the adoption of a standing position. This time however, the resistance is held in the hands, adding a level of upper body involvement in the movement. In order for balance to be maintained, the individual must learn to depress the scapula and brace the lats with each repetition. The standing position will also train one to utilise the hamstrings in the hip hinge as well.
4. Romanian deadlift
Learning how to perform the hip hinge with a barbell is important because the implement offers the most potential for loading, which can be useful for strength and muscle growth. Since this is the first movement that features a barbell, it's important that it stays relatively simple to perform so as to build familiarity. The hips move the same way in the Romanian deadlift as the cable pullthrough. However, the knees are slightly unlocked at the beginning of the movement and stay that way throughout. This allows the individual to focus solely on pivoting through the hip joint while utilising the lats to keep the barbell close to the body.
5. Stiff-legged deadlift
This final exercise compiles all the movement considerations that the aforementioned drills emphasised: leading with the hips, keeping a neutral arch in the lower back, bracing the midsection and engaging the lats, hamstrings and glutes. The knees begin fully extended this time so as you lead with your hips, it is normal to feel a deep stretch in the hamstrings as you descend. Allow your knees to bend normally without losing tension in the hamstrings, but it should not result in them tracking forward at all. Once you've lowered the barbell to your shins, engage your hamstrings and glutes to bring it back up.
When it comes to learning a new movement, the ability to scale is very important. For instance, you can always shorten the range of movement in the exercises shown here if you find yourself unable to maintain a proper position throughout. Once strength and confidence increases, the additional movement range can always be reintroduced. Take your time with learning these drills, but always maintain the mindset of progression!